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Development of flexible large fuel cell power plants for grid support - FCH-02-7-2017
Deadline: 20 Apr 2017   CALL EXPIRED

EU logo mono EC - Horizon 2020

 Enterprise and Industry
 Raw Materials
 Energy Efficiency
 Natural Resources
 Industrial Engineering

Specific Challenge:

With the Paris Climate Agreement, the need for short and long term sustainable grid support, has become more urgent than ever. A zero emission alternative for fossil fuel based (backup) power supply is needed. Excess electricity, from wind and solar renewable generation, can be converted into hydrogen and stored for re-electrification during periods of energy shortage.

Grid operators need power supply technologies on MW scale that have fast response times and excellent load-following capabilities. With such a technology they can facilitate efficient and reliable interaction with the grid on both transmission and distribution level, and ensure energy security for end users. Flexible hydrogen fuelled fuel cell power plants (FCPP) could be perfectly suited for this purpose as, compared to other technologies, they have very high efficiency, potential for fast and effective load-following capabilities, zero emission, and can be used for both short and long term grid support (winter months). Together with large (MW scale) rapid response electrolysers, which are developed and demonstrated in previous calls, large hydrogen-fuelled FCPPs have the potential to become one of the key enabling technologies for the future renewable energy based infrastructure of Europe.

1-2 MW size hydrogen FCPP’s have both been built and successfully demonstrated via European programs in recent years. However, these systems, its fuel cells, and other key components were not designed for flexible dynamic power to power operation. Moreover, with the applied fuel cells and system design the required cost levels cannot be reached, even not if the units are built in high volumes. This is because the fuel cells applied were not designed for MW size applications, the system and component development was not well integrated, and a modular approach and capital equipment cost level (Capex) did not have priority. So, significant (design) improvements of the system and the fuel cells are required. Furthermore, we need experience how to connect flexible FCPP to the grid.

Only via a joint step-by-step innovative approach the European technology, the European supply/value chain, and the market can be further developed. Europe is still leading with large-scale hydrogen FCPP technology but the basis of the European supply chain is small. To be competitive with existing technologies (e.g. diesel gen sets), Capex of < 1,500 Euro/kW is required to open this market for large-scale hydrogen FCPP technology.


  • Design of a modular highly flexible MW size fuel cell power plant for dynamic P2P applications of H2 and baseload operation to be connected to the grid.
    • Next to the complete design of the FCPP, it includes the design and development of key components and validation of their performance and scale up potential, with the purpose to optimise performance and minimise Capex for a MW size system (e.g. 2 MW).
    • The Capex reduction could for example be accomplished by a reduction in the materials costs, the number of components and connections, the production steps, costs power electronics, and most importantly the development of larger fuel cell stacks.
    • The chosen concepts should be modular and integrating manufacturability approach, resulting in a design that is fit for mass production.
  • Validation via a pilot scale flexible FCPP in an industrially relevant environment and compatible with large scale manufacturing. H2 can originate from P2G and/or industry H2 vents.
    • The selected size of the pilot installation should be logical in view of the modular design of the MW size FCPP and validation purposes (e.g. 75 – 200 KW).
    • The individual fuel cells stacks should have the same power output during the validation period as envisaged for the MW size FCPP and are fully integrated into the pilot FCPP system.
    • The project should strive to validate a sufficient level of responsiveness to meet the requirements of the grid services and dynamic electricity price opportunities (e.g. for rapid modulation, rapid start, frequency response, as required by services offered to the grid).
    • It should include control systems, diagnostics and monitoring, management of unbalanced stack (due to e.g. degradation), management and forecasting for better grid integration and will be connected to the grid.
    • The duration of the validation in an industrial relevant environment should be at least 8 months.
    • The proposal must include an initial plan for use of the pilot installation after the project.
  • In order to optimize the design of system and components the suppliers and system integrators should work closely together and show that they apply a joint, open, integrated and multidisciplinary approach.
  • Learnings from other (national and international) projects, including the projects in the frame of the LCE topic for smart grid, storage and system integration technologies for distribution system, should be included where possible.
  • Further develop and reinforce (repeatable) business models, plans, and service strategy.

This topic puts significant focus on the further development of the FC stack and is a prerequisite for the success and competitiveness of the European sector in future.

TRL start: 3, TRL end: 6

MRL start 2, MRL end 6

Any safety-related event that may occur during execution of the project shall be reported to the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC), which manages the European hydrogen safety reference database, HIAD (dedicated mailbox

The FCH 2 JU considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of up to EUR 4 million would allow the specific challenges to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected duration: 3 years

Expected Impact:

  • The proposal is expected to design and develop a modular flexible MW size FCPP for dynamic P2P applications of H2 and baseload operation for connection to the grid.
    • Capex < 1500 Euro/kW system in case of series production of MW size FCPP with total capacity of 25 MW/year (not included cost for transport, installation, project management, and utilities).
  • Development and validation of key components, in particular fuel cells, demonstrating scale up potential and Capex reduction.
    • Lifetime expectation fuel cells > 20000 h, FC efficiency > 55%, Capex FC < 450 Euro/kW stack (series production with total capacity of 25 MW/year).
  • Validation of operation flexibility and grid stabilisation capability via a pilot FCPP via fast (within seconds) response times and load following capacity over a 20-100% power range. 50% power in < 20 seconds and 100% power in < 60 seconds.
  • Electrical efficiency FCPP > 50%. This number is higher than mentioned in the MAWP because the focus is to optimize electrical efficiency
  • Availability expectation FCPP > 95%
  • Design of competitive demand response programmes for the benefit of the grid and the consumers considering integration of FCPP systems.
  • Strengthened and further develop European supply/value chains and sustainable partnerships between different European suppliers and stakeholders. Strengthen the European industry, by creating knowledge in support of the EU growth and jobs policy agenda.
  • Increased public and market awareness and acceptance of fuel cells and the important role hydrogen and hydrogen technology can play in the future sustainable energy infrastructure. E.g. via press releases, conferences, workshops, television programs, etc.
  • Overview of threats/barriers to achieve Capex and efficiency targets on full MW scale and recommendations to overcome these in future demonstration projects.

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